U.S. stocks open lower as Fed fears weigh; Dow Jones down 0.52%


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Investing.com - U.S. stocks opened lower on Thursday, after upbeat U.S. data as comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke saying that the bank could begin tapering its bond-buying program continued to weigh.

During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.52%, the S&P 500 index retreated 0.80%, while the Nasdaq Composite index declined 0.67%.

In testimony to the U.S. Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday, Bernanke said a decision to scale back the Fed's asset purchase program could be taken in the "next few meetings" depending on economic data.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's minutes from the U.S. central bank's May meeting showed a "number" of policymakers were prepared to taper bonds purchases as soon as June.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of people who filed for unemployment assistance last week fell by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 340,000, compared to expectations for a decline of 18,000 to 345,000.

Jobless claims for the preceding week were revised up to 363,000 from a previously reported increase of 360,000.

Financial stocks were broadly lower, as shares in JP Morgan tumbled 1.45% and Goldman Sachs plummeted 1.69%, after Bank of America and Citigroup dove 2.48% and 2.31% respectively.

Adding to losses, Bristol-Myers Squibb slid 0.32% after a Citigroup note highlighted excitement surrounding so-called immunotherapy, in the wake of positive results from clinical trials conducted by companies such as Bristol-Myers and Roche Holding.

On the upside, Hewlett-Packard saw shares surge 10.17% after the maker of personal computers said earnings excluding some items will be in the range of 84 cents to 87 cents a share in the three months through July, above analysts' estimates.

Among retailers, PetSmart jumped 1.45%, after the retailer said late Wednesday that it predicted higher full-year earnings than initially forecast in March.

Other stocks in focus included Gap, Salesforce.com, Williams-Sonoma, Zumiez, Pandora and Aeropostale, all scheduled to report first-quarter earnings after the closing bell.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were sharply lower. The EURO STOXX 50 plummeted 2.42%, France's CAC 40 retreated 2.41%, Germany's DAX plunged 2.45%, while Britain's FTSE 100 tumbled 2.07%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plummeted 2.54%, while Japan's Nikkei 225 Index dove 7.32%.

Also Thursday, the preliminary reading of China's HSBC manufacturing purchasing managers' index fell to 49.6 in May, below the 50 level that separates contraction from growth down from a final reading of 50.4 in April.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release official data on new home sales.

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